Author Archive

Efficient Commercial Roof Operations

Efficient Commercial Roof Operations

wideviewSMFRA majority of the programs I deliver are classes that I have been working with for a few years, however there are times when I am contacted to create a class or address a need. In September I was contacted by a department that had access to a couple acquired structures and they were looking for a training for their truck companies across all three of the shifts. The department had recently completed a multi-day internal truck company operations academy and their skills in traditional truck company disciplines were sound. Knowing I had a solid foundation to work with and a great setting with full access to a big box and strip mall structure I knew we had a unique opportunity at some great training. One of my other instructors and I met at the site with one of the department’s training Captains and we created a hands on training program to focus on efficient commercial roof operations.

IMG_2648One week prior to the training session all companies received a one page training brief to cover some of the key points and provide an outline of what to expect for the session. We also provided the training division with a detailed lesson plan, drill station needs and session timelines.

SMFR Truck EfficencyFor the training, we ran a morning and afternoon session on each shift day, making contact with over 90 members. While the training sessions were just 4 hours, the acquired structures and the solid skill sets of the crews coming in allowed for a great deal of work to be done. From discussing the importance of developing a different approach to commercial roof operations, evaluating apparatus and tool set ups, to on the roof work over a strip mall and a big box structure all companies performed well and maximized the benefit of the time given.

IMG_2632Below are a few more pictures from the class. Hopefully these provide you with some ideas for future trainings at your department and also demonstrate that Fire By Trade can bring quality custom classes to your department beyond “off the shelf” presentations delivered on a regular basis.

IMG_2630cutdepthSMFRAIMG_2636 IMG_2645 IMG_2658 IMG_2666 HolesSMFR IMG_2671

Ladder Balance and Task Packages

Ladder Balance and Task Packages

Jill28Last week I participated in a training program and found that a few simple tips on ground ladders went further than I expected so I decided to shoot a quick video of those tips to share. This may not be new information to some of you, or you may not find it applicable due to your comfort, experience or strength with ladders. If you are one of those people I applaud you, but I am sure you know people on your department or crew who are struggling with basic ground ladder work. Teaching these simple tips and set ups with them may help improve their performance on the fire ground which in turn makes all safer on the fire ground.


Props to an Engine Prop

Props to an Engine Prop

I’ve seen departments spend upwards of $5,000 for a forcible entry door prop. These props are beasts, designed to take repeated beatings while firefighters hone their skills in forcible entry over the course of hundreds of repetitions. Typically the great cost is worth every penny to ensure they hold up. I also recently spoke with a department that purchased a trailer mounted ventilation prop that through the use of hydraulics could change the pitch, giving firefighters a variety of ventilation scenarios. When I asked them how much they paid for that prop, they chuckled and said that they couldn’t afford it; hence it was paid for with a regional training grant. To make a long story short I have seen a lot of truck company props lately and I have seen a lot of vendors taking advantage of the prop business. Maybe that is why I believe it is important to compose a quick piece on a Brother working on affordable, functional and versatile props for the engine company.

group shotLast week I was given the opportunity to grow the presentation Gaining Relative Superiority: The 2 ½” Attack Line. The regular two hour program was expanded to a full day, including 5 hours of hands on training with the support of Elkhart Brass, Shur- Sales, Fire Nuggets, Castle Rock Fire Rescue and some outstanding partner instructors. The class was full at 40 students, representing 22 Colorado departments and thousands of gallons flowed. While there is certainly a lot which can be discussed about the class I wanted to specifically talk about the Canvas Corners prop and how they added to the class.

hydrant1One of the best parts about last Friday’s class was a relatively quite drill ground; no pumps running, just water flowing and lines moving. Since we were working only with 2 ½” hose and 50 psi nozzles we ran the entire day off of hydrant pressure. We had an engine on site but it never ran and served as little more than a rig to stretch from and a manifold.

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We also used a 4 story tower which was a great platform for the standpipe connection station and Denver Fold demonstration but the layout of the interior of the tower limited our interior advances. Additionally while working in a dark training tower is a realistic challenge it makes it difficult for instructors to coach and other students to observe.

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This now brings us to the Canvas Corners prop. Lieutenant Dustin Courter started designing and fabricating these props after working with Aaron Fields on the idea of creating hallways and corners for firefighters to stretch, flow and advance through in an open area. By setting up hallways and corners up in open areas the layout could easily be changed to build adaptation and the light of day would allow for true coaching of technique and peer observation of the effects of good and bad on the operation.

CC7For the class we used the mid range prop package which in our program provided two completely separate drill stations. When we added a couple Redd Boxes it was expanded to 3 separate drill stations (two hose management stations and the interior hallway advance). When you consider the fact that this prop package, a few sheets of plywood, water barrels and a few pallets all totals less than $1,000 bucks, and hose lines run completely off of a hydrant you can start to see the value of doing a ton, with very little. As a department without a training center, an instructor or training group that travels or a company officer that wants to provide good in house drills this is a game changer.

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With low pressure equipment and the Canvas Corners prop we turned a parking lot into a very active drill ground with 10 firefighters operating simultaneously.

The following are excerpts from Canvas Corners and pictures of the props in use at last Friday’s class or from other set ups they have shared.

flow5               moving hose

“Canvas Corners is an economical option that allows you to build solid hallways anywhere from the Home Depot parking lot, apparatus bays, grass fields, or in addition to a training tower for new and more challenging evolutions. New and different training helps keep firefighters interested, even with state of the art training facilities Canvas Corners will help you do just that. Quick set up and change up you will find more time focused on training versus prepping and easily stored to keep Chief happy.”

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“Think outside the Corners when using these props, Canvas Corners are not just an Engine Co. Prop, they are also used for search, RIT, and drag out scenarios. Also use the tools you already have to create more challenging, i.e. side of the firehouse as a wall to get the corners you are looking for.”

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canvascorners1Photo Jul 18, 15 32 50Photo Jul 18, 14 23 02

I had discussed this prop with Lt. Courter before the class on Friday and was intrigued. After seeing how quickly they set up, were changed around and how they held up to 40 students and a full day of 2 1/2″ operations I was thoroughly impressed. I look forward to using them whenever possible in upcoming classes in the area because they can truly make something out of nothing, or more specifically make a center hall end unit apartment stretch out of a fire station parking area.

For more information contact:

Canvas Corners Dustin Courter  (303) 570 – 6420 E-mail:


Hose Bundle Hook Up

Hose Bundle Hook Up

A variety of hose bundles and bundled finishes are used in engine companies across the country to provide versatility in stretches. Straight loads such as the triple layer can be quickly deployed but are often limited in applications for stretches that are beyond a standard “curb to the door”. For this piece I will show how to simply build and utilize a 100’ modified minuteman bundle to finish your hose loads.

The 100’ modified minuteman finish provides a hose package that can be shoulder loaded and pre-connected to a flat load of like sized hose or a wyed leader line for alley stretches, extended reach or reverse lays. It can also be broken from a pre-connected load, or stored by itself to be taken forward and connected to an existing wye or dropped down from an upper floor on an exterior vertical stretch. ???????????????????????????????

Some complaints about bundles versus a flat or straight load is that they are too difficult to build and that they don’t always deploy the same way. If too much variance in building them is allowed these statements are true. If hose bundles are built by a firefighter sitting on the ground and snaking hose back and forth with no parameters other than their leg the result will be tall firefighters making long bundles and short firefighters building short bundles. A few years ago we began to use a 6’ roof hook as the base for constructing the modified minuteman bundles and as you will see it improves consistency and has operational benefits.

IMG_7141Using the 6’ hook as a baseline, the bundle will be 6’ long. When shoulder loaded, the hang down on chest and back will be less than 3’; a length easily managed by even our shortest firefighters. The 6 foot mark also allows a perfect split in the bundle at the 50’ mid-point if you are with a department that purchases 50’ hose sections. This split at the coupling allows for that first coupling to advance with the nozzle on the first push over a threshold or around a stair well.

IMG_7115Set the nozzle at the tip of the hook and run the hose on edge back. At the other end make a fold and bring the hose back on itself to the tip again. Do this twice, taking up a total of 24’ of hose.The next fold back from the nozzle will run about a foot long, return it back to the nozzle creating a loop and now consumes 38’ of hose.

IMG_7117Now finish with a standard down and back fold using the final 12’ of hose and finishing the coupling near the nozzle. Shift this coupling slightly behind the nozzle if needed to provide a compact load.

IMG_7152The method is then reversed with the second section of hose so that from the back of the bundle from left to right you observe 2 folds, loop, two folds, loop, two folds. At the front you observe nozzle, 3 folds, coupling section and 3 folds. The finished bundle can be loaded loose, tied or strapped with lightweight tape or Velcro straps.

IMG_7150Drop the bundle with the nozzle to the objective and remove the straps.Grab the two loops and stretch back until the bundle is opened up.

IMG_7142Walk up the line to the nozzle, dressing as necessary and call for water.With a properly built bundle, deployment is simple and clean with 100’ of hose payed out in 25’ of space with the nozzle and first coupling at the door. Slight changes in the flake out can further reduce this distance or adjust to the setting.

IMG_7140I would not be surprised to hear that there are 10 different versions of the minuteman bundle alone and probably hundreds of different hose bundle options. This post is in no way, “the way” but it is a way. I am limited on the number of pictures I can insert in this blog post but I hope that this is a clear enough presentation of one option to lead your engine company to consider getting hooked up with a hose bundle.


Misapplication of the Trench Cut

Misapplication of the Trench Cut

TrenchpicThe classic trench cut shown above has not changed by definition only by misapplication. The trench cut was developed during the 1960’s in New York city during an exceptionally busy fire era. The trench component of the trench cut is to create a fire break and provide access for fire streams not to ventilate the cockloft. The tactic was brought outside the city when the first edition of John Norman’s Fire Officers Handbook was published. At about the same time John Norman published his book, John Mittendorf also published a book on truck company operations which describes “strip ventilation”. Strip ventilation is essentially expanding the louvered cuts or adjusting your louvered cuts to the roof layout. Strip ventilation is a ventilation opening for the purpose of venting.

I can think of at least a handful of fires at our department where these two tactics have been misunderstood, misapplied and in the end been either entirely ineffective or drawn fire and compounded problems. I hope this brief review can help clear some things up.trench2picThe Trench Cut

Trench Cut Order of Operations
1. Large vent hole over fire area.
2.Observation cuts between fire area and determined trench location.
3. Cut trench at narrow point and pull ceiling but do not pull trench.
4. Position hose lines underneath and above
5.When fire shows from observation cuts indicating spread to the trench. Open the trench and operate hoselines.

This picture and points come directly from the Norman text. It outlines the requirements for a trench cut operation. Note that the first order of business is a large vent hole over the fire area. The main vent over the fire area may be burn through or a hole cut by firefighters. Observation cuts are placed between the main hole and the trench to provide indication of fire travel. Lastly, we have the trench cut as the fire break in an area which hose lines can be safely staffed and operated. The trench cut is not to be opened until the observation cuts are indicating the fire has overwhelmed the main vent and is moving towards the trench. In these situations with the common cockloft, early opening of the trench will potentially draw fire. Since the tactic is primarily used in tenements of H or E type construction that provided “choke points” the next question usually comes up. Since we don’t have H or E type tenement buildings when would we use trench cuts? Any type of flat roof on a “winged” building will work however the most common application in suburban departments is limiting extension in strip-malls. Keep in mind with the lack of a narrow point this becomes extremely manpower intensive and time consuming. It is nearly impossible for most departments to accomplish in a timely manner with today’s staffing.

Trench Cuts are not a Peaked Roof Tactic

peakedtrenchIn the top left picture we can see fire burning through the ridge with nothing showing at the eaves. This is a great picture to demonstrate the funnel or heat trap effect of peaked roofs and how it accelerates horizontal fire spread at the ridge. Keep this in mind that fire spread through the peaked roof is not consistent. Fire will travel the entire space at the ridge long before lower points in the field become involved.

On the bottom we see the “trench cut” crews created in the roof to prevent fire spread. Knowing what we know about peaked roofs and seeing the picture on the left it should be clear that the further we get from the ridge when venting attic spaces more time and energy is being wasted.

The firefighters operating on the right have made a lot of cuts however their ventilation opening is very narrow overall. Based on fire behavior and building construction we know that the ridge will be hit the hardest and fastest by fire spread. A narrow opening like this at the high point will be quickly overrun. And you put firefighters at unnecessary risk cutting down at the eve/edge of the roof for no gain.

To prevent horizontal fire spread in peaked roof construction a trench cut is not required. The entire deck of a flat roof is the high point of the cockloft therefore a wall to wall cut is required. In peaked roof construction the peak is the high point and the only place that needs addressing. Here is where the Strip Vent comes in.

PeakedstripWhen we encounter fire in the attic of a peaked roof occupancy and fire spread is the main concern the most appropriate tactic and efficient use of resources is a strip vent . Put firefighters on the ridge at a point you have determined you want to stop fire travel. This point should be far enough from current fire location that the tactic can be completed but not at a point that you will draw fire to a location you are trying to salvage. Open up along the ridge with an appropriate sized hole for the volume of the attic space. This may end up being 4×12 in occupancies like the hotel above.

798louverWhile the “7,9,8” or “Coffin” cuts are typically associated with flat roofs they work great in peaked roof strip ventilation because of the louver and vent cut process that is easily expanded to meet the situation. By making a large opening at the high point the fire/heat/smoke traveling along the ridge will be released up and out this opening killing the horizontal momentum and stopping fire spread. The 7,9,8 cut is also easily expanded for flat roof strip ventilation as seen in the picture below.

Final Notes

There is certainly more to this topic than is addressed in this short post. I know that misapplication of the trench cut on peaked roofs has occurred at our department and from pictures I have seen from around the country this confusion is not isolated. Do not force a tactic to fit. If we consider our goal (to stop fire spread) and take into consideration fire behavior and building construction the appropriate tactic will be clear.


Full Day Ventilation Principles and Practices at SMFRA

Full Day Ventilation Principles and Practices at SMFRA

IMG_6670I was honored to get the call to instruct the first day of ventilation for the South Metro Fire Rescue Authority 2014 – 1 Academy. The group is a combined academy of two agencies and has a mix of both new and lateral hires. I had been looking forward to doing this class from the minute I was contacted because I believe so strongly in providing new firefighters with a solid foundation in ventilation understanding. When I found out the training division had also acquired a vacant structure slated for demolition for our hands on session I knew the quality of the training was going to increase 10 fold.


The day began in the classroom where we reviewed fire behavior, ventilation theory and research, practices and processes. Prior to the class the Academy Instructors had the recruits complete an online UL Fire Research class as pre-course home work. I know of a lot of departments that are missing out on this free resource as an educational tool so it was encouraging to see South Metro Fire Rescue embracing the information and exposing even the newest members of their department to it at the first opportunity. This also helped reduce our time in the classroom and provided us an extra hour for hands on training.

We had a total of 5 hours for hands on work on a vacant single family dwelling. Being the first day of ventilation training for this academy the program was progressive. We began with a group tool talk, “saw appreciation” (holes with hand tools) and saw familiarization. We then split the balance of the day into 3 areas; peaked roof, flat roof and horizontal ventilation to include taking windows and PPV.

IMG_6675The attached video highlights the peaked roof session which was progressive by design as well. We began with chainsaw handling and hand changes while working through a predetermined cut process on a non running saw. This was followed up with a rafter rolling session. Having students get the feel of rolling rafters in multiple cut directions with both hand operating positions helps create good technique and hand sensitivity. We then brought the saw work together for full size cuts.

IMG_6681While saw skills and technique is a huge part of vertical ventilation it isn’t the only part. Sounding firefighter work was given equal attention during both the flat roof and the peaked roof stations. Students were shown the importance of a good roof hook, differences, benefits and disadvantages of various styles. They were also taught the difference between checking decking and true sounding where we read our feet to determine location of structural members.

IMG_6672With the saw and sounding foundations set it is time to bring it together and see the students complete an operation as a team. We were fortunate on this structure that even with all the cutting leading up to this each team was able to get two full size holes. I am a firm believer that we set our “gauges” in training and if we aren’t cutting full size holes because we are worried about saving material or space we will inherently under cut in the real world. Cut big when you can even if it reduces your total reps.

IMG_6671To finish off the peaked roof session we reviewed the Milwaukee Cut method using chainsaws. Although more apt for steeper pitches the benefits of the two roof ladder Milwaukee Cut method are still very applicable in our climate during snow seasons on even the shallower pitches.

IMG_6660Thanks to the South Metro Fire Rescue Authority Training Division   for the invitation and the great support which translated into an excellent training session. I also have to thank the members of Class 2014 – 1 for their hard work and enthusiasm. Hit the upcoming events page to find the next classroom or full day session of Ventilation Principles and Practices.

SMFRA 2014-1 Academy Peaked Roof Vent from Brian Brush on Vimeo.






Search and Rescue Separation

Search and Rescue Separation

Reposted from May 2011 on

In my academy we were not taught the art of search, instead we did “search and rescue” drills. When we entered a building be it the drill tower or an acquired structure we would immediately start our search as we were being trained to do. Starting off right hand or left hand; from the front door we begin with the sole purpose of finding a victim or reporting primary clear. The monotony of the drills was occasionally broken when instructors would “really hide” a victim or baby and embarrass you when they were missed. To prevent future embarrassment the next time you went in you searched with an even greater focus (tunnel vision) on finding that baby.

A few months later I am assigned to the tower and a fire drops. The new guy excitement is high. I hear the Chief tell my officer “upon your arrival you got ‘search and rescue’” I know i am going to work. All that is running through my new firefighter mind is “are we going to go right or left? (SEARCH) and, this is the real world so I better damn well not miss any victims (RESCUE).” Herein lies the problem.

My initial training left me short sighted and it has taken years of experience, study and training to change that.

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We search for more than just victims. We search for fire, extension, egress, refuge, landmarks, any and all information that we can gather through our senses. The more information we have the better our situational awareness and the more efficient fire ground operations become through relaying interior intelligence. We can’t let this ‘walk before we crawl’ training happen anymore, teaching our new firefighters how to search before we tell them what they are looking for. “Search and Rescue” is not a single operation in fact it is two separate disciplines and must be presented as such if we are going to create professionals. Of course the priority of search is life and the greatest emphasis should be placed on the rapid location and removal of victims. Unfortunately, by training from our first exposure with a single objective lends itself to tunnel vision and puts us at a greater risk. Teach them to search, Show them search, Make them search before we ever introduce them to “Rescue”.

DSC00697“Rescue” is the removal of victims from hazards. Rescue training and teaching must be separated from search as much as possible, especially in initial training where search techniques are still being developed. Rescue training should be focused in carries, drags and removal techniques. By separating rescue from search we take away one of the most distracting words/operations in the fire service.

Today’s fire service training programs include “stress inoculation” like mask confidence drills and maze training all aimed at improving the situational awareness of firefighters under stressful conditions. Our search training should echo this thought process by truly preparing our firefighters for search operations.

FDTN Teach Them Search
Search is a high risk high reward operation it is also a heavily researched and reported tactic. We ne
ed to give it the time it deserves in a classroom before we stumble around in buildings. Provide new members with a base through a solid education of search types, targets and methods. Initial teaching should include resources like these: More Aggressive Searches – Pressler , FDTN Fireground Search , Size Up Before You Search – Rhodes. Use real world experience to teach our firefighters not just a testable text. Before they are in gear, present and discuss topics such as size-up from building layout to window sill height and help build the slide trays between the ears.

Show Them Seasearchrch
We all know wha
t we will see if you tell a group of recruits to search a room without any further explanation. Avoid this waste of time that a line of ducks and flailing tools creates. If you want them to do it right then demonstrate it right. Put on a clinic and have them follow your search. Tell them how you are judging distance, land-marking, taking note of flooring type and door swings, all while they are observing your positioning and technique. Explain why you might stop your search to pop off some base board or a heat register to check for extension. They must be shown the seamless stream of movement and thought. Without this example search is little more than pokes and prods and yes or no victim confirmations.

Make Them Search
Operations are the function of knowledge and tools. Start off small and build from there, keeping the fundamentals consistent. Some people would view Vent Enter Search as an advanced drill. I believe it is the best place to begin your initial search training because it is perfect for forging the fundamentals. 1. VES stresses the importance of searching from the greatest threat out by sending firefighters first to control the door. 2. VES drives home the importance of knowing your egress. 3. VES challenges our minds to consider room layout from the outside so we can anticipate from our entry point (the window) which wall has the door I want to control. 4. Due to the limited area a VES search is typically performed by a single member. This helps with initial skill and technique development because each member is relying on themselves for orientation and quality of search 5. Finally, due to the small area being searched repetitions will be high which accelerates technique development and skill confidence. 

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Once the firefighters are successfully demonstrating to you the movements and methods you demonstrated to them in the single room search, you can then expand to fire floor and floor above search drills. At the end of the day or week when firefighters are consistently performing quality searches make them provide the reports to reinforce the fact that they truly understand the totality of the mission. “Command from T10 – primary search on the 2nd floor is negative for victims and extension. Smoke conditions are moderate and windows have been left intact.”

I just want to conclude by making the statement that I know this is not a new message. It is very similar to that which Chief Rhodes presents in the article that is linked above and so many others out there are also communicating. For me it is the fact that our department is currently developing a class of recruits brought it to mind. I wish to ensure that they understand that search is an art and not just a question to be answered yes or no. I know that the counterpoint to this article will come from this community. Especially due to the facts that rescue techniques, tools and practices are always a hot topic. I welcome it for my own improvement and the fact is that this is simply my opinion and not factual material that can be proven. But before the barrage starts here is my message in black and white. I don’t wish to downplay the importance of Rescue training. I just believe that for initial instruction, optimizing understanding and skill development search and rescue must be separated.

$14.00 Forcible Entry Prop for Acquired Structures

$14.00 Forcible Entry Prop for Acquired Structures

Vacants or acquired structures can be outstanding training opportunities as they stand but a few simple adds can help you get a few more repetitions. There are commercially available products like Force Plates or you can get creative with some standard construction materials and build your own. Here is one of the Do It Yourself options I found that works pretty well.

2- Simpson Strong-Tie Z-Max 16 in. Heavy Duty Strap bent to shape in a bench vise


24 – 1 3/8″ deck screws and as much 3/4″ plywood or wood shelving found in the building ripped down to 2″strips as you care to use


“A Great Fireman”

“A Great Fireman”

FrontSeatIn these days of text, email and Face Book the phone call has surprisingly become less common and therefore has seemingly been elevated to a more personal level of communication.

I just spent about an hour on the phone with a good friend.  The conversation began with talk of a recent trip he took with his wife, my trip to Texas, and various “catching up” chatter. While important, as it had been some time since we last talked, it really just served as the warm up and foundation for the real reason for the call.

I can’t say my friend and I go way back, but over the relatively short time we have known each other  a deep respect and good conversation has led to a dependable and honest  point of reference for both of us. We are at very different places; geographically, professionally and personally however these differences are much the reason why our perspectives are so appreciated by one another. 

As the conversation continued we began to get into the heart of the matter, the how we are really doing beyond our superficial day to day routines. I shared my struggles, and he his frustrations. Those in our community understand how this goes. Our intense and passionate personalities can beat ourselves unrelentingly for our short comings or twist the complete lack of effort and interest of our coworkers into despise, introspection and projection at a high degree.

As expected, and now depended, our two different places brought each other back to balance. The lamenting and venting subsided and we approached a close with the seemingly natural path of progression; a sort of “where I want to be” this only reopened the discussion.

My friend told me that at one point he really wanted to “be somebody”. He said that he was glad had out grown that, because now he has realized he would just be happy to be considered a “great fireman” someday.

I know what he means; as appropriately humble individuals all we really want is the respect of our peers, but because I trust him, believe in him and I am comfortable being honest with him I challenged this definition a bit, and he did too.

IPhone 564We began to consider what some of our coworkers consider to be a great fireman, knowing full well what they see is not what we see. Also knowing how much of what is “seen” is how they see it.

  • He was a “great fireman”, he put in 30 years, always did what was asked, kept his mouth shut and never needed to promote.
  • He was a “great fireman”, not a fire cracker in the station but he worked like a mule on the fire scene. “One time he took out every window on the second floor of this fire with a ladder right before it lit off, it was awesome”
  • He was a “great fireman”, kept the rig and the station in pristine condition and was an excellent cook.
  • He was a “great fireman” he could fix anything, dishwasher, lawn mower, snow plow, in fact he even came over to my house one day and got my truck running in 5 minutes after I had been working on it for hours.

The funny thing about these makings of a great fireman; from complete conformist, to completely dangerous and possibly even completely unrelated is what the other side of the spectrum is for our coworkers?

  • prideThat guy is such a tool, he even has his own halligan
  • That guy is such a nerd he sits at the computer and watches YouTube videos of some laboratory fire experiments. “Have you never been called to a fire in a laboratory?”
  • That guy is a pain in the ass! He needs to give it a rest already, it isn’t that complicated. “I have never been to a fire that didn’t go out.”
  • That guy keeps wanting to change everything. “He has no respect for the way we have always done it”

While all this is all cliche, the point is that what makes a “great fireman” is subjective. What I consider being a “great fireman”, may just ensure that I am remembered as the “pain in the ass nerd with his own tool that wants to change everything.”

We cannot know what others consider to be a great fireman and we should not work to be a great fireman for others. If we want to be remembered as a “great fireman” we need to know what that means to us and those we respect, then we must live. Only then can we look back at the end of a career or that point where the life flashes before our eyes and take in that one second of pride we will allow ourselves to believe that we were a great fireman.

By the time we had hashed out the various perceptions of greatness, the mood was once again light and we realized it was late. The conversation came to a somewhat quick close with a “be good brother, I will talk to you soon”

What was missing from that closing is the respect for our duty and the understanding of the modern world. I might shoot him a text, email or like a Face Book post but I may not actually speak with him a soon as I should. As I sit here on duty tonight and him heading into shift tomorrow there is always the chance that our service calls upon us to give all and we never have the opportunity to talk again as was the case in Boston last week.

While it may be strange, as we have never actually worked a rig together and only known each other for a couple years I will call him tomorrow morning and tell him I think he is a great fireman. He will more than likely be very confused by this and harass me appropriately as any great fireman should, but that is not the point. What I believe is a great fireman may not match his view, but I know what he meant with his first statement and I want him to know before his last day on the job or on this earth that he has my respect today and he can rest assured that he will not have to wait “to be considered a great fireman someday”. 

Kilgore Spring Training

Kilgore Spring Training

Last year following a class atSpring Training 2014 Kilgore-page-0 FDIC Kilgore Fire Department Assistant Chief Mike Simmons approached me about bringing some training to East Texas but at the time he wasn’t too sure on where or how to host a conference. A few months later Chief Simmons got exactly what he was looking for but it may not have come quite how he had wanted it to. This winter the Kilgore Fire Department took over operations and control at the Meadow Brook Golf Course, you can read about it, the reason and process here (fire department to take over golf course) When the Chief called me and explained the situation I recall asking him why would you ever want to take over a golf course as the fire department? His answer was simple and upstanding “It is what we do, we help people and our city needed help” In less than 6 months the fire department had returned the golf course to a positive piece of the city. Business is up for the course, firefighter renovations to the event hosting areas has both increased usage and provided the fire department with a venue to host larger classes and trainings including this first regional conference which I was proud to be a part of.


IMG_6242The most unique part of the fire department involvement at the golf course is the complete overhaul of the onsite restaurant. On March 1st the Kilgore Fire Department opened the Firehouse Bar and Grill at the Golf Course, the link to the article about that is here (Firehouse Bar and Grill opens in Kilgore) At this time both on and off duty firefighters are helping out in the restaurant which has been incredibly successful. The response has helped  them to hire more restaurant specific staff and take the load of of career firefighters. Because the firefighters are on duty they are not allowed to collect tips but the appreciation for their service is not going to waste and all tips collected are put towards charitable funds. I can’t say that this would work in every city, or even any other city but I can say is that the Kilgore Fire Department took some lemons and turned it into lemonade and right now they are arguably the most popular group in the city.

With the acquisition of the golf course, event center, the restaurant and support of his Chief and the City, Chief Simmons had all he needed to host a conference. On March 14th we kicked off the 1st Annual Kilgore Spring Training aimed at bringing training to East Texas career and volunteer departments in a convenient location at a low cost. Over the 3 days I presented 4 classes and 1 hands on training session with the help of Kilgore Firefighters. Each session saw over 40 firefighters and 10 departments were represented in attendance over the course of the weekend. The feedback on the training, venue and the Kilgore Fire Department was very positive and I had a great time. The atmosphere in East Texas was very welcoming and the firefighters were a proud bunch eager to challenge themselves.

If you attended the event Chief Simmons now has all the presentations on file and you can contact him for that material. If you did not attend this year but would like to know about upcoming events in Kilgore or want to contact Chief Mike Simmons about bringing classes to Kilgore you can reach him by email at

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